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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reputation Services Seek To ‘Control What You Look Like Online’

What shows up when you Google yourself? A comment you made to the local newspaper years ago? A photo from a college party you didn’t realize was even online?

A growing number of websites, including Metal Rabbit Media, Integrity Defenders and Reputation.com are trying to help you control what you look like online.

Reputation.com warns that “people aren’t just searching for you, they’re judging you” and you may want to “make sure your online story is still your story.”

Reputation.com CEO and founder Michael Fertik told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that the typical customer is someone who is looking for a job and wants to make sure that when an employer Googles them, something relevant shows up.

Many customers are also starting to date online or apply to graduate school and want to control their online presence.

Reputation.com has an increasing number of corporate customers, including many companies who want to bury a bad quarter of earnings online, or are creating a new product that they want to rise to the top of search results.

But Fertik says there are some people they will not help.

“No violent felons, no one who’s ever been accused of harming a child. Nobody who’s been convicted of a serious fraud,” he said.

Reputation.com charges a $99 annual membership fee, but for the Reputation Defender service it’s $3,000 a month, and it can cost more, depending on how much dirt there is online about you, while the company Integrity Defenders charges around $500 to clear negative links from the first page of search results and about twice that to clear two pages.

But some have raised questions about this type of service.

In 2007, Forbes published an article about Sue Scheff, who ran a business that placed troubled teens in reform schools. As Forbes put it, disgruntled clients took to the web to complain about her business and “a quick Google search used to reveal sites describing her as a ‘fraud,’ a ‘con artist’ and a ‘crook.’”

Scheff hired Reputation.com to help her change how she appeared online, and the company buried negative web chatter by creating a cooking blog for Scheff, even though she does not cook. Fertik says Reputation.com has since decided to discontinue such practices.

“It’s true, we created this cooking blog, we took it down, and we created some very bright line rules that we will not create any content of that kind in the future,” he said.

Fertik says the negative references to Reputation.com in the Forbes article are a good example of why his company is necessary.

“You might Google us and say here’s this Forbes article, there have been 300 articles written about us per year since then. We might ask OK, why is that the first thing you see about us, or the second or the third, which I don’t think it is,” he said.

Aside from reputation management, Reputation.com also offers privacy services– helping customers avoid being tracked online, and remove themselves from databases that sell personal information.

Guest:

  • Michael Fertik, CEO Reputation.com

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Anonymous

    Is it too late for Santorum? 

  • Anonymous

    Hi @J__o__h__n:disqus , good point. We asked Michael Fertik about this and he said it would cost so much money and possibly be impossible for GOP candidate Rick Santorum to get rid of the negative online chatter about him. Though I did just do a Google search today and Dan Savage’s Google page has moved down from #1 where it often is ( that’s for me at least, as we know, Google searches vary by person).  (Here’s our story on Santorum’s “Google Problem”: http://bit.ly/qDDjSW)
    -Jill Ryan, H&N

  • Max

    While this may be a reasonable story, I am a bit skeptical that you’ve now had stories focusing on two separate underwriters in as many weeks.  Is this really a news worthy topic or is it part of the deal the company gets for underwriting the show? 

    • Joe Boese

      That infomercial was such garbage I turned off Here and Now at least for today.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LJPH6Y7AINNGL7Y6ANGSB4SLPA YuckDaFankees

    Its been subtle before but now with the Defender.com infomercial on the show Here and Now masquerading as content I don’t see how NPR can claim to be independent without commercials anymore .  Not only is it tacky but makes one wonder what would happen if an advertiser did something embarrassing/illegal what NPR would do.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LJPH6Y7AINNGL7Y6ANGSB4SLPA YuckDaFankees

      Thats right NPR doesn’t have advertisers.  They have “underwriters”.  Bah why bother us with pledge drives if NPR is going to do infomercials.

  • Robin Young

    Max, good question, one we are well aware of. But  I don’t know, I think we asked some good quesions of Reputation.com today, and I think after our Mathworks piece on the lack of hi tech workers we did a piece on the number of older high tech workers looking for a job. I don’t think we can rule out stories because companies underwrite, but of course, never do them as informercials, and I don’t think we did.

    Thanks for listening critically though

    Robin

    • Max

      The perception of a conflict could have been reduced had the entire conversation not been with just the rep from reputation.com.  Surely there are competitiors in the industry.  If the story wasn’t worth stepping on the toes of an underwriter by talking with a competitor, maybe it wasn’t worth doing the story at all.

      Hopefully we won’t hear any more of these underwriter stories for a long time.  They might not be so offensive if they weren’t aired so close together.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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